When the S**t hits the fan…

..Turn the fan off..and…what next?

Okay, I have been hiding a bit of a trauma from you all.  I moved, you know that.  I have a lovely little bungalow that needs updating.  Late November I got a quote from a builder to replace my back boiler from the fireplace with a new combi boiler siting it in the attic space.   Rip out my bathroom and replace it with a shower and a vanity unit across the end wall.  Along with some other things to do with the radiators, flooring, skirting boards etc..  Boiler replaced.    Bathroom ripped out………………………………………………………….

They start 3rd December and I returned home on the 27th to find the brick sized tiles I requested for the shower now – 6″ x 8″.  The shower tray the height of 19″, no problem because they will build a step up to it.

The end wall vanity unit now – a cloak room sized sink with a small cupboard underneath and a small toilet suitable for a cloakroom.

Then:   No work, nothing.   I have been conned.  I am left with no money and no bathroom.   Before you ask, of course I knew what I should and shouldn’t have done, but I have dementia, I live on my own and still make stupid and bad judgements.    The builder tells me he is going into liquidation (with my money).

I cried for a whole day and night, then stopped because it doesn’t help me solve it.  I feel so alone in trying to sort this out right now but I am not downhearted because it is not the end of the world really is it?     The provision for support for people with dementia here in the North East of England is quite frankly non-existant, so there is no one for me to phone and say I just need some support through this.

So, I phoned the Citizens Advise Bureau Consumer Dept and they gave me advice in what to do next.  I have sent a legal letter giving them 7 working days to complete my building works (I think that this is enough in the circumstances) which they have received.  Next Wednesday I have to get some money together and start the process of taking them to Small Claims Court to get my money back or try to at least.

I have just had a quote to complete the shower so that I can wash properly which is reasonable at around £500 to include parts and labour.  At the moment I haven’t quite got that so will be saving in the next month or so to get it done.   The rest of the bathroom work will have to wait.

Dementia:  When my Doctors tell me that it doesn’t really affect me much yet I will beg to differ.  I believe that my judgement is very poor now.  I have been thinking about this and wonder if it is to do with being unable to read peoples faces and voices, or negotiate in my mind whether the words people say to me add up or not.  How do people make a judgement on whether to trust something or someone?  I guess it can be a combination of things, including experience, how they look, or sound, that is greatly diminished for me these days.  But, that doesn’t mean I will make the same mistake twice!!

For now, I have turned the fan off.  I will deal with it day by day without worrying too much because right now there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it.

 

Proud to present…..

This is my story in my own words with the help of journalist Penny Bell who is creating a series about dementia, you can follow her on Twitter here.  Or view Linkedln profile  here.

Discovering Dementia, Season 1, episode 3 Gill’s Story

I recommend you also listen to the first two episodes:

The first episode is with her Mum who was diagnosed with dementia.  This is lovely to listen to.

The second episode is recorded at the Alzheimer’s show held in London.   This will give you an idea of the shows that are worth a visit to learn everything about dementia, for people with dementia, family and carers.

I know Penny has more to come.   It was fun working together with her during the recording, especially as she came along with me to the YPWD (Young People with Dementia) gardening group which I love.

Groups for younger people with dementia are very important because it stops isolation if you live alone, enables fun activities which are age appropriate.  Younger people with dementia have different needs to elderly people.  We come from a different era, singing groups will focus on 60’s and 70’s music, nothing like having a good old sing song to ABBA and the like!   Not that I sing, in fact I have no singing voice at all, when I try to sing a weird soundless screech emerges that is not very pleasant.  If I am ever required to sing my miming abilities knows no bounds.

Sadly there are not enough groups that support younger people living with dementia throughout the county.  Especially groups that provide a wide range of activities such as walking groups, Kayaking, Art workshops, Poetry groups, gardening groups, furniture recycling… the YPWD offers all of these and more in the West Berkshire area.

 

 

 

 

Travelling with Dementia

My experience of holiday travel with dementia with hopefully some useful tips.

I recently had a wonderful holiday in Tobago.  I have fallen in love with the island as it is sheer paradise.  I felt there was nothing to do but relax, recover, swim, eat, relax, read books…..I read six books in a week, and exercised more than I have in months swimming several times throughout every day.

Travelling when you have dementia however early can be horrendous.  The trick is to plan well ahead.   Even with booking my ‘last minute’ holiday knowing what makes it less stressful helps the planning.  What works for me may not work for everyone but maybe I can say some things that you may not have thought about.

  1.  Getting to the Airport

I checked the coaches and the trains.   From where I live there is a train that goes from my small local station to Reading – a major station.  Then from Reading there is a train to Gatwick Airport in UK.  Gatwick Airport trains even has its own platform.  However, most of the trains that I wanted that day appeared to go to London which meant travelling across London by tube to another train station which is not good for me.  So I kept looking and found that a direct train to Gatwick Airport started at from 2pm and I booked that one.  From Reading to Gatwick Airport in one go – perfect for keeping distress down.

I need to know what platform the service goes from in advance, so that if I am on the station previously I check out the platform so that I know where it is.

2. Avoiding the stress of travelling

I worry.  I get distressed if I think I am going to be late if there is a time deadline because I have little sense of time these days, also because I know how unpredictable the train service can be with delays and breakdowns.

So, I looked for an overnight stay at an hotel at the airport.   I booked a room for my daughter and I online at the Hilton Gatwick South Terminal with a great deal.  Checked in online so that I only needed to pick the key up.  We both met up there, me being the first to pick up the keys and relaxed with a glass of wine whilst I waited for her.

Food – I knew from a previous experience that the hotel is a very short distance from the terminal so we went there for a cheaper meal that suited us fine.

In the morning we were up, showered and ready to go.

3. De-stressing at the Airport

We had pre-booked the Airport Lounge for a relatively small cost to wait for our flight after checking in our bags, which we also did online.  This makes things so much easier and quicker.  The Lounge offers a good range of breakfast, tea, coffee, drinks, newspapers, comfortable seats  which are all included in the price and is quieter.  It is definitely more relaxing that sitting in the general area with lots of people.   The bustle of people can be more stressful when you have dementia because it is overwhelming, so airport lounge is a great place to counteract that.

4.  The Flight

Choosing your airline and seat I think is important.  When you are fit and able you can tolerate a lot of things.  In the past I have flown with the cheapest Airlines and laughed at cramped conditions and poor service, but then have paid next to nothing for the flights.  Now I have dementia, I must make it an enjoyable experience from start to finish to have a good holiday experience.  One day I will not be able to travel so I want to make sure that I can make travelling pleasurable for as long as possible.

I choose a good airline.  Personally I fly with British Airways.  It is not the cheapest but has the attributes to make it better for me.  I usually pay a bit more and fly premium economy which is better than economy or standard.  With it you get more seat room, and are offered  a slightly better steward service.   This holiday I flew economy – ten and a half hours of wishing I had upgraded to have a little bit more room!  15 years ago it would have been absolutely fine but not now.   Now it is important to make things easier, less stressful and pleasurable as possible.

Walk about on a long flight.  I walk up and down and don’t care how ridiculous I look I join others in a bit of space to exercise.  I wish I had bought some flight socks, because my feet and legs started to swell on the flight home.

Drink Plenty of Fluids.   Thing is about dementia I forget to think about whether I have drunk enough liquids if I am not at home.  I usually drink copious amounts of tea and (weak) coffee throughout the day, its just automatic.  Cup empty = make another.   When I am out and about it is another matter.  I never think about eating or drinking.  I try and take a bottle of water with me when I’m out because it reminds me to drink.

So on a flight, you need to keep drinking a small cup of water every so often.  On my Tobago flight I found that the stewards did not come round constantly with glasses of water, but you could get up and ask for some whenever you wanted to, but I didn’t think to.  Finally when I was not feeling great I went back to get some water and was given a good amount and felt much better after that.  So you must remember just because someone with Dementia doesn’t ask, it is important to remember to keep drinking water during a long flight.

5.  The holiday

I have realised that it didn’t  matter if I didn’t travel to see much of the island.  Where I was was perfect for me.  It had the peace that I craved to enjoy myself.  We walked along the beach, up the coast road, to the local shop to buy water.  There’s a tale – there are some guys who are looking out for wives and we were followed by a guy with no teeth trying to tell us he was a good catch because he had a house and some land, he was also trying to tell me his age – 63, trying saying that without teeth!  Then a refuse truck came along, stopped and a young guy got out and started haranguing our follower to ‘leave the ladies alone’ and ‘stop harassing’ us.  It was very funny!

Even though there were far too many steps for my arthritis and fibromyalgia it didn’t matter, I found the route with the least steps to the beach – sorted.   Being comfortable with just watching the birds, sitting in the shade, a bit of swimming was a great holiday.

Returning home was the same.  I caught a direct train and it there was no stress.

Everything I do now I plan.  I am lucky enough to be comfortable with a computer and being online.  So I research.  I print everything out and I put it in a folder.  I print out itineraries for whatever I am doing if I am travelling so that I have one piece of paper for my handbag to check on ‘what do I do next’.

Next holiday is later this year so I shall be starting my planning a coupe of months ahead of time and start saving for it!

A trip to Parliament…

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Westminster, London.

(with London Eye in background!)

 

 

Before you start reading please remember that I do have difficulties with remembering and getting specific facts about things 100% correct… But these are my thoughts as I remember them.

 

 

It was cool inside Westminster building with great stone vaulted ceilings and carvings. My daughter and I stood looking down at our feet at the brass plaques declaring that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had lain in state at that spot. Other plaques gave the names going back.  Along the sides down steps are rooms like cellars with stone arches in the walls and a broad arched window letting in light. Alice from the Alzheimer’s Society led us to the end room where tables were pushed together surrounded by chairs. I was seated at the top along side Debbie Abrahams MP the Chair of the group, who is the Labour MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth. The room filled up mainly with men, interesting that there were so few women amongst these people.

I was invited by the Alzheimer’s Society to attend a meeting in Westminster to discuss strategies for having an holistic review during the yearly dementia review with your GP.
The meeting started with Andrew Boaden, Senior Policy Officer, Alzheimer’s Society giving an overview of the inquiries findings and the recommendations to Developing a GP-led annual holistic review for people living with dementia and comorbidities.    Then I was given my 5 minutes to talk about my personal experience of living with dementia and fibromyalgia taking some questions afterwards which was good. My 5 minutes included the fact that I have never had a review because I have been told I need to make the appointments myself, which is hard for me to do because I have no sense of time scale and little memory to do so. Calendars do not work for me because I forget to look at them daily, and unless I do that ‘thing’ immediately and not ‘I need to do that today’, I always forget.

When the discussion got going I was concerned that I kept hearing the word ‘elderly’. No mention of younger people with dementia…they had seemingly forgotten my introduction where I specifically highlighted Younger People With Dementia.
Dr Martin McShane, National Clinical Director for Long Term Conditions, NHS England spoke up that looking at ‘risk’ was a more important than reviews.
I wanted to say okay, but how do you know who is at risk if you don’t have any reviews? Sadly there was a long list of hands showing to speak so that it did not give me time.
I also wanted to say about those living alone and how an holistic could benefit them.
I did talk about my co-morbidities: Fibromyalgia, IBS, and said how times when my Fibro is flaring with lack of sleep, Fibro fog can mimic the confusion of dementia. If in a review it is not taken into account my dementia could be seen as worsening with confusion, but in reality it is my Fibromyalgia, which means that my lessens when my fibro has reduced.
It was interesting listening to them talk at a higher level, because these are the people who make the changes in the health system. Not sure they were convinced yet, apart from one person Dr Andrew Green GP clinical and prescribing subcommittee Chair, British Medical Association (BMA) who described how something very similar is working extremely well in his northern practice. Funded in a different way, it sounded like it was meeting this need already giving everybody, not just those with dementia, an holistic review on a regular basis. Sadly he also spoke NHS funding cuts would mean, this service would be a casualty of it.
All of the 6 women(out of 16) brought up equally important questions and discussion, and listening around the room at everybody I could hear that everyone has their own agenda according to their expertise and involvement.
At four on the dot the meeting was over and the next group was eager to get into the room to start theirs.
I talked to Alice, I enjoyed being here, this was good, I tell her, and we talk about other things I can get involved with………Oh this is not over yet, she answers, so watch this space..!

The worst hotel…

Recently stayed overnight in a hotel in Manchester.  I travelled up by train with someone from West Berkshire, train was packed but we had booked a seat thank goodness!

The hotel was The Place, Portland Street.  This is how it looked on the website:

Cheap hotel you think, looks nice and bright, clean has food, what more can you ask for?

When we arrived the front door sported a big shiny wellington boot for door handles….then inside the foyer many white umbrellas are hanging from the ceiling..and then I guessed that the theme of this hotel is RAIN.  Yes, I kid you not!   Within two weeks of the hotel being bought by the IBIS chain it was refurbished.

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?    Did some design company sit round a table and thought, I know because it rains a lot in Manchester we will make a theme of it?    Which one of the designers thought it would be a good quirky idea?   WRONG.

It is certainly quirky, also in the foyer a low ‘wall’ in front of seating is a pair of black glasses, not sunglasses but clear glass.  What is that about?

Moving down the corridor to the lift the walls are now dark teal wallpaper with a weather map on showing highs and lows.   The wallpaper in the lifts are most odd, one which I liked was again dark teal with cats and dogs all over it – get it?  Raining cats and dogs; and in case you don’t understand it the words are etched on the mirror at the back.  The 2nd lift is yellow with clouds over it, not particularly pleasant looking.

I was fairly speechless when I saw the doors to the rooms – words can’t quite describe the hideous yellow decal covered doors made to look like front doors…and no it doesn’t stop there because the inside of the door was the same, and the bathroom door.   Now I would like to ask which idiot would think this is a good idea?  Have you not heard of disabilities that incorporate visual and cognitive impairments – these doors would certainly be a nightmare of confusion for people with dementia.

With dark and drab walls, with pictures of rain it is the most depressing hotel room I have ever stayed in, in my life.  Would I recommend it or stay there again =  NO NO NO.  In fact there other regular visitors to the hotel who said the same.

Hang on, I haven’t finished – Breakfast.  What a miserable looking attempt there was.  No cooked breakfast on offer, even though they have a restaurant at night there, just continental.  No imagination, cheap products, not particularly enticing.   I am Gluten Free and Dairy Free so was there anything I could eat?  I asked if there was any GF bread to toast and got the reply that they didn’t think so.  However they managed to find me 2 slices, no dairy free spread so, sorry Vegans you aren’t catered for either.  Thin slices of processed ham, cheese, some chopped up tomatoes, cucumber and hard boiled eggs.  No point me looking at the cereal, milk, or yoghurt.  So I had a slice of ham, tomatoes and cucumber with dry GF toast.  Quite frankly that is simply not good enough.  Bed and Breakfast for a single person around £108 for one night.

IBIS you have got this so wrong…..

 

Having a voice…

I was invited by the Alzheimer’s Society to go to the Service Users Review Panel Conference in Manchester here in  England and obviously said yes please.  There were lots of groups represented in the room with both group facilitators and a few people with dementia – PWD.  For those of you who don’t know what these groups are about I shall tell you what they are and about my day.

I belong to the West Berkshire Empowerment Group.  This is a group that meet once a month to discuss and review…just about anything.  Any issues that have any sort of impact on someone living with dementia.  As part of the DEEP – Dementia Engagement Empowerment Project there are around 38 groups in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and more in Scotland.   The groups are made up of people with dementia and a facilitator and is designed for people living with dementia to have a voice in just about anything locally, hopefully to also have an impact nationally.

First of all, I shall admit I was invited to this day – to go to a conference in Manchester and actually I had no idea what it was about or why I was invited.  I get so confused as to each of the Societies, Services, Groups, and Organisations are and whether they are affiliated to each other.    The trouble is one organisation is an umbrella for one topic, which in turn is an umbrella for various groups…and I can’t keep up with it.   So there I am going to a conference that is by the Alzheimer’s Society Organisation and had no idea it was for Service Users Review Panel groups, and then….I had no idea that the West Berkshire Empowerment Group was a Service Users Review Panel.   And, where the hell does DEEP come into it all, who is that affiliated to?  I have dementia for goodness sake I am struggling to keep up with who is who these days…

Anyway, it was a great day in which highlighted lots of work that many of the groups had done and were doing.  For instance, one group has worked with Royal Doulton in producing dementia friendly china ware which is not an insubstantial impact in dementia care.

In our group the West Berkshire Empowerment Group in the past we have given our opinion to research on books/novels specifically published for PWD.  Reviewed electronic gadgets such as key finders.  The group went to the Royal Berkshire Hospital at Reading to look at the signage and our review was passed back to the hospital for improvements.  We suggested a purple wristband for PWD so that they can be easily identified, because we know that many people like myself do not show obvious signs of difficulties, but after an anesthetic we could quite badly affected with confusion.  This has now been approved and the hospital has put this practice in place.  We also look at public transport and whether that is dementia friendly.  The groups also help the local community become dementia friendly.

This conference looked at what format worked for each of the groups, for instance some of the groups were on a 12 month basis only.  Some of that is because of funding.   The group I belong to rolls on and on and on…we have no time limit.   Our facilitator Louise Keane is particular active in ensuring that we have some great issues to discuss and review, and it became apparent to me that her  attitude towards the group is brilliant and makes our group attractive for institutions such as Reading University, and other services to approach us for our opinions.  Thanks Louise!

The opinions that were talked about were being looked at those organising all of the groups and it was quite surprising for me to hear that the lack of support for facilitators was felt by some of the new groups.  But this was a topic and a great one too to be openly discussed: could it be improved and enhanced. For me it was interesting to hear some people say they didn’t feel supported in knowing how to end a group after the 12 months, or how to deal with someone whose dementia had progressed and could no longer take part in any discussion. So it was good this conference highlighted these issues, and for me as a PWD to hear that.   I am sure that training for our facilitators will improve to enable the groups to grow and give us our voices.

It was great to hear how some of the work that the groups had done had impacted not only locally but was being looked at nationally.

It just goes to show how small groups of people with dementia can have such a powerful voice if only given the opportunity to speak.   Anyone living with dementia who wants something more than just pleasurable activities, who would like a voice then I would encourage you to join your local DEEP group.  You can find your nearest group on their website.  Come along its great to be involved and obviously you get a cup of tea!tumblr_mqmztxxppp1rzwv55o1_500

Well now, what’s new?

Gosh it feels like ages since I have written and posted anything.  I am quite busy these days and need to get some time to sit and read, and also write.

Early December I lost my Dad.Scan 9

At 94 his heart simply stopped.  He was at home and had lost the reason to live after my Mum died last June 2015.   It was a sad time for all our family arranging a funeral for the second time in six months.   Now we have the hard task of working together to clear the family home, I don’t need to say how difficult that is.  We all miss him so much.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what else is new….well the biggest thing is that I recently tried to join a research trial for a new drug for dementia that has had some remarkable effects.  So I was keen to get on to the third phase.  Along I went and carried out the initial memory tests to see if I was eligible and was not really surprised to find out that my memory was too good for the trial!  Over time I have been feeling that my cognitive abilities have indeed improved and I discussed it with the researcher.  I have now been taking Rivastigmine medication (Exelon) for the last 2 (or is it 3 years?) and it has certainly improved things for me.  I have also worked hard in trying to keep my mental abilities active, by reading, writing, playing scrabble, sudoko and the like.   I think it is great news.   There are times when I know people have questioned their diagnosis (or others questioned the diagnoses of someone) when they do not appear to have any great cognitive difficulties or have improved.  It is very unsettling when someone has a diagnosis of dementia then told they do not have dementia because the symptoms have improved some what.  People want a reason for their cognitive difficulties.    For me, I would love to have a different diagnosis, ‘So sorry we made a mistake you don’t really have Alzheimer’s those empty holes in the blood flow in your brain scan was just a smudge on the camera lens’  and I still wonder if brain trauma looks the same as Alzheimer’s in a scan, but then know it is likely it leads to the same thing.  I even thought of trying to get a different diagnosis, perhaps downgrade it to MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) which I already have, but the reason for it was diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.  It all seems so complicated and simple at the same time.  What does it matter anyway – well I will tell you how it affects you.  I have to first remind you that I do NOT have Dementia, yeah yeah I know that Dementia is a symptom, but it is also a disease, and Alzheimer’s is classed under that.  You still with me so far?   Ok so having been told before by one GP that you cannot have Alzheimer’s without dementia due to it being a dementia, I have Alzheimer’s disease without dementia.  That fact still remains true at present unless anyone else can interpret my scans differently.    Holiday insurance: did you know that you cannot get a yearly insurance if you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s?  No matter that I may have only mild cognitive impairments, it is the word Alzheimer’s that is the crux.  I guess if I said my diagnosis is MCI then I would be able to get it.  I can get individual insurance for each holiday so I am told but at a greater cost.   (I have just booked a trip to Alaska with my daughter in August which we have been saving for! )  Driving licence:  I would have to apply for each every year with my doctors confirmation that I am able to drive.  I have however had to surrender it because my attention  is too poor.   Yet someone with ADHD, are they able to hold a driving licence I wonder?  Suffice to say the word Alzheimer’s in itself is a barrier to a lot of things regardless of the level of it.

It’s great though that my cognitive abilities have improved and I hope it will remain so for many years to come…….

I am involved in my local YPWD (Young Persons With Dementia) group and join in activities locally.  We had an arts and crafts course before Christmas which was fun, and since then it has been furniture up-cycling – something very close to my heart as I have furnished my flat with old furniture and am up-cycling it bit by bit.  I am really enjoying doing it and discovering what my style is!

On Monday I shall be speaking at the Berkshire Dementia Action Alliance Meeting.  When I was asked I felt a bit of a fraud but then I am more than capable to talk about how it was when I was diagnosed and what I have been doing since to keep my brain active – use or lose it as the saying goes, and how to make sure that I remember everything on a daily basis.  I can talk about how I still fear the future – when I allow myself to.   Also speaking with me is a guy  who is another member of the Newbury Empowerment Group so we know each other.   So I am trying to put together some notes for that.  Will let you know how it goes.

Next, I have been asked to be part of local nurse training giving information about early diagnosis and my experiences.  I can not only pass on what I know, I can also give them lots of information that they will not have even thought about!   I am so pleased to have been asked and can be a voice.  Not sure whether that will be by video or a talk.  Looking forward to being involved with that.

I have had some very small involvement in the West Berkshire Neurological Alliance, which is an excellent forum.  I regularly attend the Berkshire West Therapy Centre using their exercise machines to keep fit in a way that helps my Fibromyalgia.  It is such a unique place with only one other coming close to it in the country, I help out with raffles, and will help when they move premises on 1st April.

This year is already turning out to have the promise of lots to keep me occupied!